Honoring Those That Served, The Story of Pistol Head


The B-25 Bomber shown stationed in the South Pacific. (circa 1944)
The typical plane flown by Lt. Colonel S.T. Willis and 'Pistol Head'.

In honor of Memorial Day, Chloe and I wanted to share the remarkable story of Lt. Colonel Solomon Theodore (S.T.) Willis Jr. and his young cocker spaniel, named "Pistol Head" that flew 48 combat missions together in a B-25 Bomber.

The rust colored cocker spaniel was a birthday gift to Willis from his young bride Eileen, and in October 1943 the two of them went off to war. Quoting from Willis's Memorial, "...Even during combat missions the man and the dog were together, and the gentle affection between them was so noticeable that companions spared no effort to return Pistol Head to his mistress after the death of his master".

The following newspaper article was published in the "Pittsburgh Press", July 29, 1944.

Flyer’s Air Pal Comes Home To Comfort Hero’s Widow
Cocker Spaniel Veteran of 48 Missions in Pacific Pines Away After Master Loses Life

New York, July 29 (UP) - Pistol Head, a little red Cocker Spaniel, completing his 49th mission yesterday, arrived home from the Central Pacific, without his master, 27-year-old Lt. Col. S.T. Willis who took him off to war 10 months ago. Lt. Col. Willis, a Seventh Army Air Force pilot, was killed on his 51st mission. Pistol Head was with him on 48 of them. It was partly because of his mistress, Mrs. Eileen Willis, and partly because of Pistol Head that the dog made the long journey home by air from the Pacific area.

Lt. Colonel S.T. Willis and his cocker spaniel
'Pistol Head' in the South Pacific. (circa 1944) 
Mrs. Willis took the news of her husband’s death bravely, but Pistol Head began to pine. He stopped eating and his tail lost its friendly wag. The men of Lt. Col. Willis’ group fearing the dog would die, gave him an honorable discharge and arranged for his flight home. Attached to his collar was a cardboard tag carrying the group’s sentiments: “This little fellow was a pal of the late Lt. Col. Willis, killed in action. He has flown 48 combat missions and is being returned to Mrs. Willis. Any consideration shown to Pistol Head will be greatly appreciated by us". - The Seventh Bomber Command.

Pistol Head’s assignment now was to protect Mrs. Willis and her son, Michael Lee, one year-old today. Ann Schultz, a friend of the Willis family, met the plane and took the dog to his home. Betty Bittner, stewardess on the United Airlines plane which brought the dog from San Francisco to New York, said Pistol Head was an ideal passenger. He caused no trouble and barked delightedly when the big transport took off after every stop. “He barked every time we got into the air,” she said. 

Pistol Head was not only a faithful friend to Lt. Col. Willis’s bomber group, but his sharp bark often warned of the approach of Jap planes. His ear was so keen that he could distinguish by the drone of the motors the difference between the enemy and an American plane. 


  1. One of the many stories from World War II that need to be remembered.

  2. Agreed, you'll also be interested to know that Pistol Head's final home with Eileen Willis and the late Lt. Col. Willis was Brooklyn, NY.


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